While controversy continues to surround issue of building churches amid government promises to issue a new law, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) launched a campaign Sunday aiming to highlight the current status of churches across the country.
Entitled “Closed for Security Reasons”, the campaign is running under the slogan: “For a fair law for the construction of churches.” It logs churches that were closed down by security forces and have been out of service for years, making it difficult for Christian communities to practise their religious rites.
A Luxor resident said that he had to travel about 15 km to attend a church service, since those in his village were closed, according to video footage provided by the EIPR. Priests said that churches have been repeatedly and abruptly shut down by security authorities. In this governorate, the EIPR logged at least six closed churches, which had formerly served nearly 1,500 families.
The video also shows several houses of worship seemingly facing legal challenges with their licensing. This has been a major topic of debate between lawmakers and Christian representatives who had pushed for the legalisation of unlicensed buildings established under restrictive construction laws.
Moreover, many churches were closed after being destroyed or damaged due to attacks or in the aftermath of sectarian violence. Dozens of churches, affiliated buildings, and facilities serving the Christian communities have been set on fire and sabotaged by extremist Islamists following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.
In recent months, several incidents of sectarian violence were linked to a village where residents refused the Christian residents’ right to build churches. The claim that a new house of worship would possibly be constructed, whether true or not, has been used to trigger assaults on Christians.
Different draft laws are on the table, including one prepared by the government and signed by the three major Christian churches, while two other proposals were presented to the parliament by Al-Wafd and the Free Egyptians Party (FEP).